NEW YORK – “It is not a question of dialogue, it is not a question of programs,”
said Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founder of the Foundation for Ethnic
Understanding, as he discussed how American Jews and Muslims should interact in
the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“It’s about what I refer
to as an empathetic imagination, meaning putting your self” in the other’s
Schneier, the son of Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a major figure in
Jewish- Catholic relations, has been working in recent years on building bridges
between Jewish and Muslim communities both in the United States and around the
The pioneer of a program in which rabbis and imams switch pulpits
to deliver sermons – rabbis in mosques and imams in synagogues – that he says
has now expanded to thirty five countries, Schneier believes that it is the
“responsibility of Jewish leaders after such a terrible thing [as] Boston to put
[themselves] in the place of American Muslims” who are being “demonized” and
“We understand what that pain is, we understand what that
kind of persecution is, and therefore it is our responsibility not only to speak
out but to defend the American Muslim community,” Schneier told The Jerusalem
Post during an interview in New York on Tuesday evening.
“What was very
gratifying was the number of Jewish leaders and rabbis that did speak out on
this very issue.”
Schneier said, however, that support is a two-way
street. Citing what he believes to be a tendency by Americans to paint the
Muslim community in broad strokes, the 54-year-old rabbi asserted that “the way
to turn this thing around” is for Muslim leaders to “be very outspoken and shout
from the rooftops” that the bombers did not represent Islam.
this perception that American Muslims are not to be trusted and this is a
conspiracy and this is what is being taught in mosques.”
said, in Europe – where “Jews are under attack by Muslims,” and where both
communities face the same religious rights issues in the form of attacks on both
circumcision and ritual slaughter – “there is a responsibility of the Muslim
community to speak out, to denounce those attacks and to defend the Jewish
“Because of that... I think the stakes are much higher in
Europe,” Schneier said.
“Therefore I believe that the only way to put an
end to this is to have Muslims fighting the fight for Jews.[If] the Muslims
don’t fight the fight for Jews, then the Jewish community might as well just
pick up and leave.
“In Europe, Jews are confronted with anti-Semitism,
particularly coming from the Muslim community. We don’t have that here at
all,” he said.
“You don’t have rabbis being beaten up like in Berlin,
schoolchildren being shot like in Toulouse. You don’t have that here. It’s a
different reality [and] I think that has more to do with the United States than
it has to do with Islam or Muslims.
“You look at the multicultural
formula or prescription of the US and compare that to France, you will
understand why the American Muslim community has successfully integrated into
our society while in France they have a major problem on their hands,” Schneier
“In Europe this has become an existentialist issue for the
Jewish community, but I think that American Muslims can be a very important and
very critical partner in serving as an example [for] what can be done and what
should be done.”